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How To Make The Most of The Coast With Yorkshire-Based Wellness Group Happy Seal Yoga

How To Make The Most of The Coast With Yorkshire-Based Wellness Group Happy Seal Yoga
Health and beauty
June 2024
Reading time 5 Minutes

Yorkshire boasts some of the most breathtaking coastline in the country, something that Helen Peterson, yoga instructor at Happy Seal Yoga, knows only too well

Living North talks to Helen about going with the flow, the benefits of outdoor yoga, and the irresistible draw of the sea.

Helen’s love for the sea goes back to long before she taught yoga up and down the North Yorkshire coast. ‘I grew up in Stockton but my grandparents lived in Scarborough. We used to come down here on weekends and the holidays and there’s just something about the sea. I’ve always been obsessed with it,’ she says. ‘I used to be a beach lifeguard because I always wanted to work beside the sea.’

After discovering a love for yoga, it was only natural that Helen would come back to the coast and combine her two great loves. ‘I got into yoga because I had bad knees and it really helped me and I decided I could start teaching yoga,’ she explains. Helen then took some time out, travelling to India to learn more about the art of yoga and perfect her technique. ‘I was still working for the RNLI as a lifeguard supervisor and my friend said, “Do you want to try running a class outside in Whitby and I’ll help advertise it for you?” We started in July 2019 with one class a week that summer. I left the RNLI at the end of 2019 and decided to start my own business in 2020.’

So Happy Seal Yoga was born, running yoga sessions in scenic spots along the North Yorkshire coast. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. ‘Clients loved it because it was a totally different experience to being in a class,’ explains Helen. ‘You’re in this beautiful setting, you can hear the sea lapping against the shore as you move, and you’re in beautiful fresh air most of the time.’ This could be a daunting prospect given the region’s changeable weather and freezing winters, but Helen is unfazed. ‘In the winter you just have to put extra layers on and everyone still comes along and has a lovely time.’

The name itself, Happy Seal Yoga, brings a smile to the face and for Helen it made complete sense. ‘I just wanted something a little bit different. I knew I was going to be doing yoga by the sea and we’ve got a seal colony near us at Ravenscar. I really like seals – they’re like the labradors of the sea, and if you watch them they’re always stretching and arching their backs.’

An appreciation for the sea (and seals) is something most people can connect with. ‘I think because it’s so open. When you look out to sea it feels like there are endless possibilities and the sound of the sea is really calming,’ Helen says. ‘There’s time for stillness by the sea. We have such busy and hectic lives, if you can get a moment to stop and pause it’s great. It’s just so vast and huge and when you look to the horizon you can see the curve of the earth and you feel really small in this big place. It really centres you and gives you a sense of your place in the world.’

‘There’s time for stillness by the sea. We have such busy and hectic lives, if you can get a moment to stop and pause it’s great’

Besides being a great way to connect with like-minded people, the combination of gentle movement and the great outdoors has lots of health benefits too. ‘Most importantly, you can take a little bit of time for yourself and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before. A lot of people worry that they’re not flexible enough, but yoga is really not about that. If you come enough you might get a bit more flexible, but it just gives you more awareness of your body so you can feel how you are. Being outside, you’re going to get an endorphin release because you’re looking at that lovely scenery and there’s a lot of research on how being beside water is good for your mental health.’

Helen stretches herself (no pun intended) across her local section of the coast to connect with as many people as possible, with locations including Cayton Bay, Sandsend, Scarborough, Whitby and Filey. But that’s not all, as she has big plans for the rest of 2024. ‘We’ve got an event at a glamping site near Whitby called Coast and Camplight, including a day retreat where you can go off-grid, forget the world and just enjoy yourself,’ she says. ‘We also have an Earth Day retreat in the woods near Scarborough, and then I like to do beach cleans – we’ll be doing those once a month after our Scarborough class.’

Quick-Fire Questions

Tell us about a local hidden gem.
Sha-Ka Coffee House and Eatery in Scarborough, it’s a Hawaiian-themed café.

What’s your favourite part of the coast?
Cayton Bay. I live 10 minutes away, but I do love Sandsend as well.

What advice would you give to someone trying yoga for the first time?
Any good yoga teacher will put you at ease so ask any questions you have. I always offer different options to build your way up as you get used to it.

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